Chocolate Frogs and Salty Dogs

“Wow,” I say to MB.  “You know, I don’t think that I’ve ever noticed this before.”

“Quoi?”

“A whole aisle, I mean, an entire aisle.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“I mean, look at it!  It’s marvelous, really.”

MB contemplates the grocery store aisle.

“C’est normal, non?”

“Dude.  No.”

You can figure out a lot about the flavor profiles of a country by visiting a grocery store.  Even though I have lived in France for over a year I am still noticing some of these little differences.  For instance, when I first moved here I was annoyed – neigh – horrified by how difficult it was to find a non-sweet cereal that wasn’t corn flakes (MB’s cereal of choice is basically a chopped up candy bar with a handful of granola thrown towards its general direction) but until about two weeks ago I hadn’t noticed the chocolate bars.   Over a year’s worth of going to the grocery store and staring dumb-founded at the endless varieties of chocolate filled, chocolate-covered, chocolate cluster cereals and never once had I noticed that there was an entire aisle devoted entirely to chocolate bars; not candy, not cookies, not any other variety of sweets; just an aisle of different brands and combinations of chocolate.  It is impressive…and it is awesome.

After I noticed this aisle of happiness I started thinking…I mean, come on, just how many combinations of chocolate bars can you need?  It’s over the top!  And then, I remember the cracker aisle in United States grocery stores.  While the French devote large portions of their grocery store to bulk chocolate and other sweet things (there is also an entire aisle just for yogurt) in the U.S. we tend to run more salty.  We have an entire aisle of crackers…how many variety of crackers does one need?  And don’t even get me started on the chip aisle.  There are other subtle differences as well: in U.S. there will be about 10 different varieties of peanut butter, in France you will be lucky to find one, but there will be a variety of Nutella-type spreads available.

Recently, we had some French friends over for dinner and I had made oreo cookie truffles (don’t judge me, they are amazing).  One of them took a bite and looked at me, pleasantly surprised; clearly he wasn’t expecting an American to be able to make a tasty truffle.

“This is very good, it is so interesting!  What is it?”  He said, holding the truffle aloft.

“Oh, just a little something I whipped up,” I said smiling.  WHAT?!  I didn’t need him to know that it was just Oreos and cream cheese; I was basking in the glow of French praise, it is rare thing, one must savor it!

“Well, it is very nice.  I remember this type of thing from all my visits to the U.S. – the combination of interesting flavors.  My first peanut butter and jam sandwich was amazing!”

“Jelly,” I say.

“Quoi?”

“Nothing.”

I never thought I would ever hear a French person discuss the complexity of American faire such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but when you think about it, it makes sense.  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be a unique flavor profile in a country where they like their sweet to be sweet.  I mean, sure, don’t get me wrong, we all know Americans consume plenty of sugar (let’s check our diabetes rates, people) but we have a tendency to throw a little salt in there: chocolate covered pretzels, buckeyes (http://www.joyofbaking.com/candy/PeanutButterBalls.html), cheddar cheese on apple pie!  In France you get things that are sugar on sugar, like my favorite pastry, the Success (and what a success it is, har har har) which is some sort of magical combination of chocolate, coconut, and more chocolate.  No peanut butter or salt here!

So from my grocery store research I have concluded that we Americans are salty dogs and the French are chocolate frogs.  Now if only I could figure out a way to get a whole aisle of crackers AND a whole aisle of chocolate bars at the same grocery store!

A little summer homework:  What differences have you noticed at grocery stores in other countries?  Look forward to reading some fun answers!

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34 Responses to Chocolate Frogs and Salty Dogs

  1. grenobloise says:

    The grocery stores in Scotland had less chocolate but a LOT of chips (tons of varieties) and quite a lot of crackers (things that go with tea). There was also a lot of Indian spices and meal options. And a lot of sweet cakes.

    • breadispain says:

      YUM! I wish it was easier to find indian spices here – at least we have our few little Asian stores!

      • grenobloise says:

        Looked like they actually had REAL Chinese food too (France, are ya’ listening?), including soup dumplings!!!

      • grenobloise says:

        I also think anything salty can always be washed down with a Coke. Very American. Pretzels and diet coke, yum. Chocolate covered pretzels with diet coke. Yum again. French like their espresso; sweet pairs better with coffee. So, I wonder about the beverages influencing the food and vice versa. French got it down with pairing wine and food perfectly. But, Americans too… beer and cheeseburgers go so well together! ha

      • breadispain says:

        Ha – so true! Although, give me a good Cali Cab Sav for my burger!

  2. Sara Louise says:

    I miss the cracker aisle!! I would love to have a Triscuit or a Wheat Thin right about now 🙂

  3. nick says:

    Salt w/ sugar is a great combo. I think it’s lost on Euros, but when tasted, they generally enjoy it as it’s unfamiliar, yet familiar. PB&J being a prime example.

    • breadispain says:

      Yeah – you know I love my salt with sugar. Remember the crack cookies? Perfect example of salty and sweet! I did make the peanut butter ritz covered in chocolate for Frenchies at a party and they LOVED it. Like you say, I think it’s just a unusual flavor here!

  4. Aly says:

    I actually noticed that when I was there. DID you SEE me standing with awe and wonder on my face as I ogled the aisle? Well, I wanted to buy that aisle and make sweet chocolately love to it.

  5. Amanda says:

    In Switzerland there is also an entire aisle devoted to chocolate bars (even with a “budget” store brand option) and about half an aisle for different kinds of muesli/granola. I also noticed that sliced bread (usually just one option) was called “toast.” In the condiments aisle, I found that there were many different kinds of mustard, mayonnaise and other savory spreads all in toothpaste tubes. Loved those tubes! Visiting a grocery store in a foreign country is my favorite touristy thing to do!

    • breadispain says:

      Toothpaste tubes of mayo and mustard? How practical! Perfect for picnics – loves it! I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves going to foreign grocery stores – I think most of my friends think I am weird!

  6. I was nodding my head in agreement as I read this post. It’s all true, the chocolate aisle, the cereal that shocks me and adds one more layer to the paradox, the variety of yogurt, cheese, cream; there are so many different types of cream!! P-Daddy won’t even go into that aisle, it overwhelms him so.
    In Ireland there were loads and loads of ‘crisps’ or what we call chips, same as in Scotland, but the thing that I always freaked out about were the flavors of the chips. I remember when Walker’s (our Lay’s) ran a contest to find the best new freaky melange of a flavor for a new chip. One was squirrel, which sounded a disconcerted note of backwoods to my east Texas ears, another chili chocolate. And of course, ketchup flavored potato chips. A revelation!
    I think of grocery stores as a cultural school. Look around and you can learn a lot about some people, no lie.

    aidan xo

    • breadispain says:

      Squirrel crisps?! No way! Even in Tennessee we don’t have those! haha! Too good and too true, you really can learn so much interesting stuff from the grocery store if you just pay attention!!

      Thanks for reading!

  7. Katherine says:

    I’m still getting used to French grocery stores as we’ve only been here since May. In our 11 years in Ireland before that I missed the chip and cracker selection of home – especially Cheetos, which I have found in one large grocery store in France but which don’t taste like US ones….all that yummy orange cheesiness is missing 🙂 I suppose the French make up for it with all the beautiful ACTUAL cheese, though. Was pleasantly surprised by the chocolate bar aisle, too, but what’s the deal with all the flavored mayonnaise? Hard to find the one brand of au naturel in our local store!

    • breadispain says:

      Oh my goodness – I’ll never forget the first time I showed my French fiance cheetos – he was thoroughly horrified as I wolfed my way through the bag in about 15 seconds. SO good – and proper doritoes…not the same here. AHH – I can explain the flavored mayo! It’s for Burgundy fondue – in which you cook raw meat in boiling oil (so good) and then use the different mayo dips. You should be able to find nice, plain Benedicta mayo though or make your own – its actually really easy!! 🙂

      • Katherine says:

        Thanks for mayo tips, dip sounds yum. I sadly ( boo-hoo) just finished my beautiful bag of Cheetos from my trip to the States 2 weeks ago. My British husband doesn’t understand this either:-) . He has, however, been enjoying the bag of FRITOS I also snagged, much to my disappointment at having to share!

  8. vad says:

    Ha good post. My first time in France, I’ve noticed the long aisle of cheese. Cheeses of any form. And such little choice of chips. I would kill for sour cream and onions ruffles. lol Lucky for me, I live near Belgium and the Netherlands, so I stock up on peanuts butter and cheddar. I really miss Canada for the variety of food available.

    • breadispain says:

      oh evil of you to mention cheddar! I can’t find that at all here…unless I want to get super fancy cheddar from the fromagerie and even that can be hard to come by. Le sigh. I’ve lived in 4 countries now and if only I could mix everything from each grocery store!

  9. Crystal says:

    Even after all my years in France, I still marvel at the dairy product aisle in any supermarket. I really do believe that it would be the apocalypse in France if suddenly only a handful of yogurt kinds were available. In Canada, Max couldn’t get over how much selection there was for snacks (chips, cookies, pop etc).

    I also have a tube of mayonnaise in my fridge right now. Practical? You betcha.

    And dammit, now I want some Triscuits.

    • breadispain says:

      TRISCUITS! HAha – yeah, the yogurt aisle is fairly amazing. I don’t even know how there can be so many different kinds…but then it is the cracker thing all over again. OKay – I need to get myself some of this tube mayo.

  10. Pingback: Favourite posts this week - Bake 'n' Shake

  11. gautier says:

    bonjour l,américaine . je ne suis pas la France, mais je suis français .J ,apprécie ton dialogue avec la France .J,ai parcouru les blog d,américains vivant en France pour avoir une idée de la mentalité nord américaines .Je pensais mettre bien préparé ,mais je dois admettre que la culture américaine ma surpris et je comprend mieux les questions que tu te pose sur la culture Française.Nous sommes vraiment différent ,j,ai été dans un mac do américain et je n,en n,ai pas cru mes yeux .les Américains ont un problème avec la nourriture .L,Amérique est un pays impressionnant et j,en ai conclu que je ne pourrai pas y vivre ,C ,est pour cela que j,admire les efforts que vous devez fournir pour vivre en France .Les américains sont des gens formidables ,il m,ont accueilli avec bienveillance .

    • breadispain says:

      Merci pour votre reponse, Jacques! Oui, nous pays sont tres different pour beaucoup des raisons mais je pense il y a beaucoup des similarites aussi! 🙂

      Merci de lire le blog! (desole pour mon Francais!)

  12. gautier says:

    je dis souvent (dites -leurs) Mon coeur a saigner . Je vais parler a l,Amérique et pas a vous jeune Américaines .J,ai été militaire français en Bosnie et j,ai vue de mes yeux vue le pire de l,homme ,je vous dit cela a cause de (todd Akin) j,ai eu honte .Que ce monsieur puisse expliquer qu,une femmes violé ne peu pas tomber enceinte .Excusez moi mon mouvement d,humeur n,a rien avoir avec vous .Je ne savais pas a qui le dire .Je suis conscient des différences culturelle sont importante ,mais il y a des des jours ou je me dis que des américaines vivant en France doivent crier leurs mécontentement . Je disais dites-leur que l,Amérique est un pays incroyable nous sommes différent et semblable .Le jour ou vous allez rentrer chez vous ,je sais que vous allez ramenez un peu de France chez vous comme moi j,ai ramener un petit peu d,Amérique chez moi

  13. Fat Dormouse says:

    I still can’t get over the number of cereals with chocolate in them…I stand in front of the boxes trying desperately to find one that doesn’t include chocolate. But the chocolate-bar-aisle is a joy to behold! My bugbear is the paucity of the choice of tinned fruit…it’s quite difficult to find fruit in juice, not syrup, and the choice is small. I would like grapefruit! Oranges! Apricts! Peaches! Ah! I hadn’t realised how much I missed tinned fruit until I thought about it (?!)
    I don’t worry so much about the crisps/chips aisle as I can almost always find my favourite Roast Chicken variety, but I do agree that the choice is not very wide.

    As always I’m enjoying reading your blog. I hope you will pop over to see me at Fat Dormouse getting Thinner (dormouse.blogspot.com) and join in my Giveaway.

  14. BlankaC says:

    Just discovered your blog today… Thanks for writing it.. I personally moved to Grenoble, Rhone-Alpes two weeks ago, so everything it’s been new for me and it’s really nice to hear/read how others cope with that… Anyway, I did mention there’re plenty of sugary products, but what I really miss in here, are light milk stuff. I mean low fat mozzarella, creme fraiche or gouda… sooo few of them are available in a low-fat version! How is it possible that French people stay so thin? :-O

    • breadispain says:

      YES! I so miss low-fat sour cream or mayo! I don’t know how they are so skinny either…I think it is genetic!!! Thanks for reading! 🙂 And I hope you are enjoying Grenoble – if you want to know about some expat meet up groups just send me an email through my contact email!

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